Cape to Cape MTB 2012 is over for another year, and this time Flow was on hand to experience everything this magnificent West Australian stage race is all about. Watch our two part video to join the adventure.
The South West of WA is a magical part of the world and Cape to Cape MTB 2012 took in the best of it. Starting at the majestic Cape Leeuwin and wrapping up in Dunsborough four days later, 1100 riders went on a 220km journey through ancient Karri forests, past turquoise beaches, ripping through perfect singletrack, sliding on pea-gravel and hammering on fireroads through vineyards. Each day was a unique experience and that’s what stage racing is all about.
This race is a must-do in our minds. The setting, the sheer quality of the event organisation, the level of competition (the elite field was mind-boggling), the trails… it’s hard not to sound overly frothy, but it was just brilliant. Check out the videos above to join in the adventure.
Day 1: Cape Leeuwin to Hamelin Bay.
The shortest day in Cape to Cape is also the hardest. 1100 riders clustered beneath the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse in breathtaking surrounds before charging into the sandy, hilly first stage. Day 1 is a mass-start and the buzz was tremendous.
After a four kilometre slug up corrugated fireroads, the now thinned pack was shot down a loose, dusty and rocky doubletrack at full speed. This was to be the vibe of day one; tough, sandy climbs and surfing-the-bike descents with hectic overtaking moves aplenty!
The notorious beach leg was a less of an ordeal this year than in the past, with tides, swell and winds conspiring to keep the sands reasonably hard packed. Nonetheless, many a rider found themselves sinking into the sands if they couldn’t maintain enough speed to float across the top. It was tough, but rocketing past emerald green waves, sea water flying off your tyres, is a hell of an experience.
After the appropriately named Hamstring Hill, the stage finished in Hamelin Bay. Washing the dirt off in postcard perfect waters of the Bay, graceful stingrays looping about in the shallow waters, was the best possible way to cap off the day.
Day 2: Hamelin Bay to Xanadu Winery.
Cape to Cape picked up on day 2 right where it left off, with riders rolling our of Hamelin Bay in seeded groups of around 250 riders. Again a road climb weeded out those whose legs were stinging from day 1, before riders disappeared into the towering Karri forests that make this stage so special.
Perfect tunnels of singletrack, all tilted to just the right descending gradient, snaked through the trees, broken up by fast fireroads and the odd pinch climb. Poppy jumps over fallen logs, loamy soils, even an emu – the first half of this stage was sensational. There was less sandy slogging than day 1 too, but as the pace wound up during the final 20km, things got tough once again.
Soon enough the rows of vines that signal the nearing of the stage end rolled into view. Packs of riders, hanging onto passing wheels as best as possible, skimmed past seemingly endless rows of bright green grape vines as the course wound through vineyard after vineyard. Bemused tourists, enjoying a drop of Margaret River’s finest nectars, cheered us on from breezy verandahs, but it wasn’t long until we were doing the same, lounging on the grass at Xanadu Winery.
Later that afternoon, the pine forest just outside Margaret River township played host to the Red Bull Sundown Shootout, a compulsory side event for the top 20 men and top 10 women with time bonuses on offer. An individual time trial, the Shootout was a 2:30-3:00 rip through jumps and berms with one uphill slog thrown in for good measure. It all capped off with a straight run into a series of kickers lined on both sides by screaming locals! There were category prizes for local legends and best dressed too, which just added to the vibe.
With just a minute and half between Andy Blair and Lachlan Norris, the Shootout had the potential to really shape the race outcome too. Blairy grabbed the win, bringing him back to within 35 seconds of Norris; suddenly the race was up for grabs again!
Day 3: Xanadu Winery to Colonial Brewey – the Margaret River Special Stage.
Known as the singletrack stage, day 3 was the one that had riders buzzing. Perfect blue skies once again smiled on the mass of riders as we set out to sample the handicraft of MRORCA (Margaret River Off Road Cycling Association), the booming local club.
It was a singletrack feast! The new Big Pine trail is a flow-packed roller coaster ride – big respect to trail builder David Willcox for that one. The addition of a 25m log ride just makes it even better, even letting you gain a couple of positions in the race if you get it right. Endless berms that hug you like yo mumma, floaty table top jumps and the odd patch of pea gravel poking through to keep you watchful… it was bloody brilliant stuff.
The day left riders with even bigger smiles at the finish line, winding up at the deliciously refreshing Colonial Brewery where pale ales and pizzas refuelled spent bodies. Once again, the Cape to Cape crew couldn’t have done a better job with the venue. Tony Tucknott also deserves a special shout out, his skills on the microphone are unrivalled. The man has golden tonsils.
Day 4: Colonial Brewery to Dunsborough.
As the race wound down, the pace ramped up. Day 4 was fast and furious from the get go and didn’t let up for almost 67km. At the point end, today was crunch time, for the rest of the field it was more about crunching gears and grinding teeth, trying to hold onto the fast bunches.
To be dropped by your bunch and ride in no-man’s-land on the final day meant serious suffering as the race hammered along, flat farmland fireroads and hot tarmac sections. As the day’s end drew near, the focus switched from the wheel in front to staying upright! The final 6km through Meelup Regional Park was pure WA pea-gravel, the ball bearing trail surface that the South West is known for. To grab the brakes means instant skidding, so for tired brains it was no easy task to get to the finish line without some blood.
For the serious guys and girls, the race concluded just as it began. Lachie Norris held off Andy Blair’s last minute singletrack assault to win by 28 seconds and Jenny Fay kept up her reputation by obliterating the women’s field with an overall winning margin of 22 minutes. It was great to see the ever-smiling Norris take out the win, as it may be his last mountain bike appearance for some time as we heads off to the UK to race on a pro road team. Fay is on the mountain bike form of her career right now – she looks unstoppable moving towards the last race of the season, the Briar’s Highland Fling in 10 days time.
The Cape to Cape has grown from just 75 riders five years ago to over 1100 now, and it’s not hard to see why. This is one race that we think is going to prove as sticky and hard to forget as a Margaret River berm.
Get your bearings – check out our map of each day’s start and finish points for the Cape to Cape below.
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